Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Poker-playing monkey seizure is settled!

The battle between an Alberta multimillionaire and the province over the seizure of his poker-playing monkey and other unusual pets has been resolved. But a government lawyer said yesterday a confidentiality agreement prevents the parties from discussing the settlement, even whether the animals have been returned.

"I'm afraid I can't say anything," lawyer Alan Meikle told the Sun, when asked about the decision by Phil Sprung Sr. to discontinue his lawsuit.

Sprung sued the province in 2003 after Fish and Wildlife officers raided his ranch along the Sheep River, west of Okotoks, and took away four animals, including two macaque monkeys.

One of the simians, Tarzan, had a penchant for poker, said the lawyer who successfully defended Wildlife Act charges laid against Sprung.

Paul Brunnen - who had the Oct. 5, 2001 search warrant used to seize the animals ruled unlawful - told the Sun last year that he had seen pictures showing Tarzan playing cards. Three other animals, a female macaque, a moose that Sprungs kept penned up at night for its safety, and a pet raccoon, which has since died, were also seized.

The moose, which the family erroneously believed was a male and dubbed Murray, was turned over to the Calgary Zoo where her true sex was determined and she was renamed Anne Murray. Zoo spokesman Kathleen Hewitt said the animal has not been returned to Sprung. "She's still part of the zoo family," Hewitt said.

A discontinuance notice, filed at Court of Queen's Bench by Sprung lawyer Virginia May, said the matter had been settled "pursuant to an agreement reached between the parties."

May was not in her office yesterday.

Last January, May said that Sprung, who sought damages of $600,000, wanted the pets returned. Sprung was also not available at his Calgary business, Sprung Instant Structures Ltd., and a message left for his son, Phil Jr., was not returned.

Story here.

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